Sunday, September 7, 2008

IAVA's Top Ten Issues....

From Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a few things to think about:
"With the new president in office next year, America will have the chance to turn the page on the way veterans were treated after Vietnam. Below are the top 10 actions the new president must take:

1. Ensure Thorough, Professional, and Confidential Mental Health Screening

IAVA supports mandatory and confidential mental health and TBI screening by a mental health professional for all troops, both before and at least 90 days after a combat tour.

2. Advance-Fund VA Health Care

Year after year, the VA budget is passed late, forcing hundreds of veterans' hospitals and clinics to ration care. IAVA believes the only way to ensure timely funding of veterans' health care is to fund the program one year in advance. In addition, IAVA endorses the annual Independent Budget, produced by leading Veterans Service Organizations including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, Paralyzed Veterans of America, and AMVETS, as the blueprint for VA funding levels.

3. Overhaul the Military and Veterans' Disability System

IAVA believes the military and veterans' disability system needs a fundamental overhaul to streamline the process and provide adequate benefits to our wounded troops.

4. Cut the Claims Backlog in Half

Hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans are awaiting an answer from the VA on their benefits claims. Without this crucial source of income, many are struggling to make ends meet. The claims backlog must be cut in half with the new president's first year in office.

5. End the Passive VA System

The VA offers a wide array of benefits and services - but many veterans do not know what they are eligible for. The VA must do much more to aggressively advertise their services, especially online and in rural areas, and ensure that eligible veterans are receiving the care and benefits they have earned.

6. Combat the Shortage of Mental Health Professionals

The VA must be authorized to bolster its mental health workforce with adequate psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to meet the demands of returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. IAVA also supports increased funding for Vet Centers to alleviate staffing shortfalls. Furthermore, the next president should issue a national call to service, bolstered by incentives, for mental health care workers in America.

The Department of Defense must address current shortages of mental health professionals. IAVA recommends a study of reasons for attrition among military mental health professionals, and the creation of new recruitment and retention incentives for mental health care providers, such as scholarships or college loan forgiveness.

7. Create Tax Incentives for Patriotic Employers

IAVA supports tax credits for the hiring of veterans, including National Guardsmen and Reservists, and those at risk for homelessness. IAVA recommends tax credits for employers who, when their reserve component employees are called to active duty for over 90 days, continue to support their employees by paying the difference between the servicemembers' civilian salary and their military wages.

8. Fight Homelessness among Veterans

50,000 new vouchers should be issued to house homeless veterans and the next president should end homelessness among veterans by the end of his first term.

9. Give Families Access to Mental Health Support

Military families should have improved access to mental health services, and active-duty families should be given unlimited access to mental health care, including family and marital counseling, on military bases. Families should also be given more effective training in the warning signs and effects of psychological injuries.

IAVA supports the creation of new VA programs to provide family and marital counseling for veterans receiving VA mental health treatment.

Congress should appropriate funding so that the military can formalize and coordinate the current volunteer family support services for the families of deployed servicemembers.

10. Repeal the Waiver of High-Deployment Pay

IAVA opposes the Secretary of Defense's use of national security waivers to avoid paying servicemembers "high deployment allowances" of $1,000/month. The high deployment allowance should be enforced, and should include servicemembers who are currently in a combat theatre and have served more than 365 days in a hazardous duty zone over the past two years (for active-duty troops) or over the past five years (for those in the reserve component)"

IMO, it's hard to quarrel with these!


Pat Smith said...

If given the chance McCain will prove to be the best at funding these top ten issues. McCain’s record of not voting for VA bills laced with pork and ear marks, has already proven he puts our country first. If anyone bothered to read or listened to his words – they would already know he wants these billions in wasteful spending to go directly to Veterans Affairs. While a good president knows there would be no United States without veterans he could not rightly put veterans in front of our Country (what true veteran would even want that?). Veterans barely survived in the ‘90s, our funding has finally been getting on track with Bush (no thanks to this congress adding billions in back door pork). If McCain is elected it will be the first time our VA and Military bills are all passed on time because they will actually be CLEAN. A clean bill is some politicians’ worst nightmare. Anyone who can understand just how bad we need change will support McCain/Palin in bringing the best of all parties together. Unity of our political parties is needed to cut out the greed, corruption, and waste now in our government.

rewinn said...

Pat -welcome aboard -

I had not intended this board to discuss individual candidates; suffice it to say that you have absolutely no evidence for your faith in John McCain.

In the first place, most major veterans groups do not give McCain a good grade on funding veterans: VFW, American Legion, DAV.

You may be aware that McCain was caught LYING about his support from those groups; the YouTube is easily available. He said he got 100% ratings from those groups and when a veteran said no he hadn't, McCain backed off cuz, you know, he has not. But he is no doubt repeating the claim since he's never been penalized for his many misstatements on the facts.

Second, time after time McCain has sought to cut not pork but actual veteran-related spending. On the GI Bill, he opposed it as "too generous" and finally gave up only when 75 senators from both parties gave it a veto-proof majority. He still refused to vote for it though.

Finally, you are mistaken to think that the president has a line-item veto. The notion that the bills would become "clean" with him in the White House assumes that he would veto an entire appropriation because it, for example, gives a little more money to Walter Reed than McCain likes. That's nonsense.

Speaking of Walter Reed - McCain was in the Senate while it rotted. Why didn't he speak up?

I would prefer to speak on the merits of each issue rather than about each political candidate. If you can confine your remarks as to the issues, not the candidate, I welcome your comment as to which of IVAW's 10 priorities should come first, how they should be funded, what alternatives should be considered, etcetera.

Gary Baumgarten said...

IAVA's Todd Bowers will be my guest on News Talk Online on to discuss what the Obama administration must do to help returning veterans at 5 PM New York time Thursday Nov. 13.

To talk to him please go to and click on the JOIN THE SHOW link. There is no charge.